Schulung von Bäuerinnen zur Herstellung von Kräuterextrakten für die Produktion von Bio-Baumwolle. // © bioRe

Training women farmers to prepare botanicals for organic cotton production // © bioRe 

Sustainability and value creation along the cotton, tea and spices supply chains

INA in India


At a glance

More than half of India's 1.3 billion inhabitants work in agriculture. Millions of smallholder farms are at the beginning of global agricultural supply chains. Their most important products for export are cotton, tea and spices. India has the largest area under cotton cultivation in the world, is the largest exporter of spices and the second largest tea producer. But many smallholder farmers are affected by poverty and the effects of climate change. Only a small portion of agricultural production so far operates according to internationally recognised sustainability and quality standards.   

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ promotes sustainability and local value addition for the cotton, tea and spices supply chains.   

Short Version:

Long Version:

Project implementation and partners

From Field to Shelf

One example of cooperation with the business community is a project with ALDI North and ALDI South. The project supported around 1,000 smallholder farmers in Maharashtra in converting from conventional cotton to organic cotton. Such a conversion takes several years. During this phase, the cotton cannot yet be certified as organic - this is only possible from the third year onwards. However, due to low yields of organic cultivation, almost half of the farmers return to conventional cultivation during the conversion phase. During the project phase, small farmers are supported in their conversion. Two local implementation partners provided support, including training in building and maintaining soil fertility and access to high-quality organic seeds. The cotton from the project was further processed into textiles for the own brands and is on sale in ALDI shops in February 2023.

From Field to Fanshop

Another example of a project is the partnership with the sustainable textile company BRANDS Fashion and nine football clubs of the 1st and 2nd Bundesliga for fairly and organically produced cotton merchandise. In addition to 1. FC Union Berlin, Arminia Bielefeld, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hamburger SV, SV Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund and FC St. Pauli have also joined the alliance. Together, they support smallholder farmers in the conversion from conventional to organic cotton production with purchase guarantees as well as trainings and access to improved seeds. At the same time, the project includes an initiative in collaboration with the GIZ project “Sport for Development”. Children and young adults in neighbouring communities are taught life skills through sports trainings. They are given perspectives for education, health, gender equality and peaceful interactions. 

In January 2023, the football clubs and other representatives went on a delegation trip to India: Read more on this

Preserving Biodiversity and Climate-Resilient Cultivation of Tea and Spices in India   

The Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) is working with the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry to strengthen sustainability and local addition along the tea and spices supply chains in the Indian states of Assam and Kerala. By working with the private sector and strategic industry stakeholders, the project promotes sustainable supply chains from 'shelf to field'. This is done through training in sustainable farming practices, the provision of innovative upstream and downstream services, and the development of multi-actor partnerships to implement sustainability strategies. A particular focus is put on improving the social security of women workers in tea plantations, adapting agricultural practices to climate change and increasing agrobiodiversity. For example, together with Yogi Tea and AvT McCormick, the project promotes regenerative, organic spice cultivation of turmeric and ginger in the Western Ghats. With UN Women and the Forum Fairer Handel, a special COVID-19 intervention is being implemented for trainings on good agricultural practices as well as health and safety measures for women workers on tea plantations.   


Is your organisation or company engaged with the commodities mentioned or in other commodities? INA acts as a platform for interested companies and integrates them into the commodity hub India through integrated development partnerships with the private sector.   

Would you like to become active together with INA for sustainable supply chains in India? Then write to us!   

Cotton serves as a livelihood for about 6 million smallholder farmers in India. The textile industry is the second largest employer in the country after agriculture, with over 45 million direct and 60 million indirect employees. Since 2019, the GIZ Global Programme "Sustainability and Value Added in Agricultural Supply Chains" has been promoting the implementation of sustainability standards such as Better Cotton, Fairtrade and organic standards along the cotton supply chain in partnership with the Indian Ministry of Textiles and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. So far, 240,000 smallholder farmers in the regions of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are being supported in sustainable cotton production. Around the world, there are several leading global companies that are committed to switching from conventional to organic cotton production through partnerships with GIZ. 

A farmer harvesting cotton in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh // © GIZ
A farmer harvesting cotton in the Indian state of Maharashtra // © GIZ
Field trials and sampling of organic cotton as part of the bioRe project // © GIZ
Participant in a sewing course of the Welspun project in Maharashtra, India // © GIZ